It may be difficult for some child sexual abuse survivors to express what she/he experienced. Some survivors do not remember the abuse, yet, some nagging thoughts and feelings keep niggling at them.
Some survivors believe that because the abuse was perpetrated when they were a child it is too late to heal. This is simply not true! It is never too late to heal. The oldest adult I have worked with to heal her child sexual abuse was 82 years-old. She said she wished she would have engaged in healing when she was 20 when she began remembering her abuse. Many survivors are 40 – 70+ when they decide to give him/herself the gift of healing.
How does child sexual abuse impact adults?
Child Sexual Abuse impacts people in different ways, and there may be some survivors who feel less impact than others. Some people experience multiple negative impacts such as anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, fear, depression, difficulty with intimate relationships, difficulty trusting themselves or others and an increased risk for using drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, cancer, lupus fibromyalgia, migraine headaches.
Each person develops coping behaviors in their own way, and each person does what they needed to do in order to survive the abuse.
What does the healing process look like?
Every person responds to trauma in a different way, and there is no one way to heal. However, it is imperative to state that talk therapy alone is inadequate to effect healing the unconscious, subconscious and soul level pain. Thus, it is imperative to engage with a mental health professional who is a Certified Hypnosis Practitioner.
A person experiences some or all of the following stages and emotions.
Recognizing that healing is possible. Survivors of abuse are not alone, it is never too late to process the feelings and regain one’s true self.
- The decision to heal is powerful and empowering. It is a commitment to take the journey to truth, wholeness and peace of mind. Everyone’s journey is different. No one-size-fits-all approach to healing will help everyone. Everyone’s healing process is unique and the assisting professional needs to honor each person’s needs.
- The Emergency Stage. Not everyone goes through this stage or it is brief. During this stage, the abuse may be all that the survivor thinks about and it may feel as though his/her life is constantly stressful. This stage the survivor may feel very uncomfortable, but the good news is, it will come to an end.
- Remembering. Some people may have vivid memories of the abuse, but for others they minimized or tucked it away and no longer remember the details. However, it is imperative the details that need to be uncovered are accessed and processed to effect the healing.
- Believing the abuse is real and not one’s imagination. As children, the person sometimes denies that bad or scary things are transpiring because they are too painful to deal with or understand. As adults, it can still be difficult to face the reality of the abuse and to recognize the different ways one has been impacted.
- Breaking the silence. Speaking about the abuse to trusted people can be a very powerful step for survivors, and one that takes a great deal of courage. Some choose a family member, partner or friend(s) and others choose to speak about it as appropriate.
- Understanding that the abuse is not the survivors fault. No matter what others might believe, Child Sexual Abuse is never the fault of the survivor. Nor does the child ‘want’ to engage in such behavior.
- Connecting to the child within. It is important for the survivor to reconnect to the child that was hurt by the abuse, and to confront that pain and their fears, anger, rage, sadness, humiliation, guilt, grief and/or shame.
- All feelings are appropriate. Feelings are a natural aspect of the healing process. The survivor may grieve for the ways they were hurt, for not being protected or for missing out on their childhood—the loss of innocence, etc.
- Forgiveness. The most empowering aspect of healing is forgiving the abuser. Forgiveness is not letting the abuser off the hook. Forgiving the perpetrator severs the control the perpetrator had. Many survivors confront their perpetrator face-to-face with a support person with him/her; others choose to confront their perpetrator in a telepathic process.
- Spirituality—Connecting to a higher source. For some survivors spirituality can be a source of comfort, inspiration, courage, love and strength during the healing process.
- The process of change. Survivors are faced with many changes during the healing process, and it can bring about a range of emotions. It is important that the survivor be kind and take good care of themselves during the healing process.
- Resolution and moving on. The healing process can be a long one, but a moment in time will come when the survivor feels like his/her life is balanced and that they are no longer in constant pain. It is important for survivors to remember that healing is a journey and not a sprint. There will be good days and some difficult days. However, the difficult days will become less and less. Until one moment one recognizes one is through the rough spots and can breathe again, and peace of mind is the foundation from which he/she operates the majority of the time. And if there is a stressful moment. she/he has experience and tools to process the situation/feelings and get back on track of living life with peace of mind.
In the final analysis, every sexual abuse survivor can heal given she/he has the appropriate professional assistance. You deserve the gift–only you can give yourself, peace of mind and wholeness.